Ralph, 6, has learned how to interact beter with other children while playing the augmented reality game
When she first heard of Pok mon Go, New York mom Lenore Koppelman was skeptical.
“I was totally making fun of it,” Koppelman, of Queens, tells PEOPLE. “I’m not a big video game person and I was sort of laughing and saying, ‘Oh my God, [the players] look like zombies.'”
All that changed last week when Koppelman’s husband, Steve, downloaded the augmented reality game onto his phone and let their son, Ralph, play.
Ralph was 2-years-old when doctors diagnosed him with hyperlexia and autism. The 6-year-old, who loves the color green, Nintendo and drawing, doesn t always interact with other children easily. However, minutes after he started playing Pok mon Go, Ralph began talking with other players nearby.
The first time Ralph spoke with another player, Koppelman thought it was “luck,” but then he began talking to other children, making eye contact and carrying on conversations. At one point, Ralph and a little boy high-fived each other after comparing their captured Pok mon.
“That’s the moment that my husband and I looked at each other and knew something really amazing and magical was taking place,” Koppelman tells PEOPLE.
For more on the Pokémon Go craze, pick up this week s issue of PEOPLE on newsstands Friday
Since that night, Ralph has become more flexible with his daily routine, which Koppelman says he is “obsessed” with. The family now spends their evenings walking through their Astoria, Queens, neighborhood catching Pok mon and making new friends.
“He’s not the same kid he was [a few] days ago,” Koppelman says.
The devoted parents aren’t the only ones seeing a difference in their son. One night, the family visited their local pharmacy. After a few minutes of talking about the game with Ralph, Koppelman says the pharmacist noted, “This is the most I’ve ever heard him say to me. This is the most conversation we have ever had. And you’ve been shopping here since he was a baby.’ ”
Koppelman, who is a professional face and body painter, can’t wait to see what comes next. The once-skeptical mother says she and her husband are working on balancing Ralph’s “screen time.” In the meantime, the proud mother says she is trying to learn more about Pok mon so she can keep up with Ralph’s newfound obsession.
“For our family, it has been something of a miracle,” Koppelman says. “Pok mon Go has done some things for [Ralph] in a matter of days that years of hard work with other tools and tactics haven’t done as quickly. What an amazing game.”
Koppelman has set up a blog for anyone interested in following her son’s adventures.